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Mr B's review
This beautiful biography tells the story of Collingwood ‘Cherry’ Ingram, the unsung hero of the iconic Japanese cherry blossom. Ingram fell in love with the trees as a young man but, when mismanagement caused the cherry tree population to collapse in Japan in the 1920’s, Ingram – with the help of other passionate ‘cherry guardians’ – brought his own stock from the UK to save them. This quirky book is a fine tribute to Ingram’s unique place in botanic history.
‘Sympathetic and engrossing… a portrait of great charm and sophistication’ Guardian
The irresistible story of Japanese cherry blossoms, threatened by political ideology and saved by an unknown Englishman
Collingwood Ingram, known as ‘Cherry’ for his defining obsession, was born in 1880 and lived until he was a hundred, witnessing a fraught century of conflict and change.
After visiting Japan in 1902 and 1907 and discovering two magnificent cherry trees in the garden of his family home in Kent in 1919, Ingram fell in love with cherry blossoms, or sakura, and dedicated much of his life to their cultivation and preservation.
On a 1926 trip to Japan to search for new specimens, Ingram was shocked to see the loss of local cherry diversity, driven by modernisation, neglect and a dangerous and creeping ideology. A cloned cherry, the Somei-yoshino, was taking over the landscape and becoming the symbol of Japan’s expansionist ambitions.
The most striking absence from the Japanese cherry scene, for Ingram, was that of Taihaku, a brilliant ‘great white’ cherry tree. A proud example of this tree grew in his English garden and he swore to return it to its native home. Multiple attempts to send Taihaku scions back to Japan ended in failure, but Ingram persisted.
Over decades, Ingram became one of the world’s leading cherry experts and shared the joy of sakura both nationally and internationally. Every spring we enjoy his legacy. ‘Cherry’ Ingram is a portrait of this little-known Englishman, a story of Britain and Japan in the twentieth century and an exploration of the delicate blossoms whose beauty is admired around the world.
“Sympathetic and engrossing… a portrait of great charm and sophistication, rich in its natural and historical range, guaranteeing that you won’t look at cherry blossoms the same way again” — Dr Christopher Harding * Guardian * “A remarkable book…excellent…fascinating, a treat for gardeners, cherry-growers and historians” — Robin Lane Fox * Financial Times * “[A] deeply moving book — beautifully written, and a huge achievement in terms of research” — Claire Kohda Hazelton * The Spectator * “Set against the narrative arc of Japanese history, journalist Naoko Abe’s account of the man behind the preservation of her country’s national symbol is both sympathetic and compelling… On reading this book, beautifully illustrated with atmospheric period shots and colour plates, you may well determine, as I have, to visit Japan at cherry blossom time” — Vanessa Berridge * Sunday Express * “[A] lovely book… Two tensions animate this book: the difficulty of sending fragile scions around the world and successfully grafting them; and the wrenching historical context… It is hard to view the blossoms of the somei-yashino with such tender joy after reading Ms Abe’s book” * Economist * “An engaging biography of a man who “helped to change the face of spring”” — Ian Critchley * Sunday Times * “A page turner… Naoko Abe parallels her biography with a comprehensive history of cherries, intersected with major moments in Japanese history… There is a heartwarming end to the tale that the author spins with skill and erudition” — Tania Compton * Country Life * “`Cherry’ Ingram is a meticulously researched book: Abe undertook dozens of interviews with relatives of the sakuramori… [and] sifted through Ingram’s extensive diaries and condenses the often impenetrable history of Japan’s feudal and imperial ages” — Alice Vincent * Daily Telegraph * “After reading [`Cherry’ Ingram], the annual ritual of hanami (flower-viewing) will never be quite the same again… an extraordinary story” — Richard Lloyd Parry * The Times * “In retelling [Ingram’s] story from her own cultural perspective, Abe has produced an engaging work that adds illuminating definition to the world about which he wrote” — Jodie Jones * Gardens Illustrated * “An enchanting story about an Englishman’s attempts to preserve Japan’s rich cherry tree heritage in the face of rapid modernization” * Japan Times * “An admiring and engaging portrait of an eccentric British enthusiast, one of the last great amateur naturalists of the Edwardian Era” — Laurence A. Marschall * Natural History Magazine * “Remarkable… Combining vast historical research, perceptive cultural interpretation, and a gift for keen, biographical storytelling, Abe’s study of one man’s passion for a singular plant species celebrates the beneficial impact such enthusiasts can have on the world at large” * Booklist * “Lovers of the outdoors, especially gardeners, will find much to enjoy in Japanese journalist Abe’s first English-language book, which won the Nihon Essayist Club Award in 2016. The author engagingly chronicles the travels and plant-collecting adventures of Collingwood Ingram… Charming” * Kirkus Review * “Like the sakura itself, Ms. Abe’s book is a quiet pleasure” — Gerard Helferich * Wall Street Journal *
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